In The News

Oil rigs are sky scrapers for fish: Production much higher under platforms

With events like the Deepwater Horizon spill still fresh in the world’s collective memory, it’s not hard to see the oil rig as an insular time bomb, ticking toward inevitable calamity. But new research shows that fish flock to the undersides of rigs, where their vertical substructure acts as an underwater skyscraper, New Scientist reported . A submarine study of rigs off the coast of California found that fish production rates are 27 times higher under those rigs than in nearby reefs. Compared to all the world’s natural marine habitats, fish under the rigs are 10 times more productive. The rigs’ substructure crosses through the entire water column, providing plenty of surface area for invertebrates and coral to stake out a home.

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New wind sensor for International Space Station to watch tropical storms

A new instrument designed to measure winds and track tropical storms has been installed on the International Space Station, Spaceflight Now reported . The SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule brought the Rapid Scatterometer to the ISS in September. Known also as the ISS-RapidScat, the instrument uses a 100-watt antenna that spins around 20 rpm to bounce microwave signals off the surface of the ocean, providing data on wind speed and direction. The scatterometer is mounted to the outside of the station’s European Space Agency Columbus module. The $26 million instrument is made of spare parts from a satellite built in the 1990s. Howard Eisen, ISS-RapidScat project manager, said that the use of recycled parts saved NASA over $300 million.

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ConservationDrones.Org offers birds-eye-view to conservationists on a budget

The forests of Borneo and Sumatra are thick with vegetation and humidity. Primate biologist Serge Wich would know; he spent plenty of time navigating the thicket while looking for orangutans, the elusive subjects of his research. It was there, amid the stifling heat and near-impenetrable tangle of stalks and vines that Wich thought, There must be a better way to do this. “It’s very slow work to do surveys in a forest,” Wich said. “How nice it would be to fly over those forests and get data from above.” Many militaries and governments use unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to keep an unobtrusive eye on a specific target.

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